A Cup of Tea with Lemonaid
by Isabelle Wilkinson
We are always excited when we see brands doing exciting things with a wider impact. We’ve been following Lemonaid for a while now, ever since Julian Warowioff started coming to our Old Street kiosk for his daily iced Matcha Lattes. Julian heads up the UK team of Lemonaid Beverages and we are delighted to stock their ChariTea green tea in our Tea Bar in central London. Over a cup of Good & Proper Tea, he tells us about the Lemonaid and ChariTea foundation, and how they’re using soft drinks to support social projects around the world.
So, what is the Lemonaid and ChariTea foundation?
We are a Social Enterprise and 5p from every bottle sold goes to the Lemonaid and ChariTea Foundation. This Foundation is a charity and supports social projects in the countries where the ingredients come from. Our work stems from our belief that Drinking Helps. We have developed a range of truly ethical soft drinks and iced teas to provide a delicious and ethical alternative to the drinks that the soft drink giants are churning out. All of our ingredients are organic and Fairtrade, exactly how it should be and we’re proud to say that so far we have raised over £2 million from the sales of our drinks for social initiatives.
That’s a huge amount of money raised - tell us about how the Lemonaid & ChariTea Foundation came to be and how the money is put to good use.
Our founder, Paul (Bethke) had the idea back in 2008 to start a business in order to raise money for social projects in a self sustaining way. Paul had been working in development aid in Sri Lanka before and felt that there was a need to really achieve long term social change, rather than just make a quick short term impact. Today the Foundation are supporting projects across the world.
And why soft drinks?
There was a real lack of a soft drink that wasn't packed full of sugar and dodgy ingredients that belongs in a science lab. We wanted a soft drink that was primarily for grown ups, made in the same way it's commonly made in Sri Lanka, just freshly squeezed fruit juice, a little cane sugar and sparkling water. Paul couldn't find this drink back home and thought, “maybe this the perfect product to raise money for social projects” so Lemonaid and ChariTea were born.
That’s definitely an idea we can get behind - delicious drinks that facilitate social good. Why do you think that it is so important to give people the resources to help themselves?
This is central to why we do what we do. We want to help create real change. We don't want to create a situation of short term gain or dependancy. All of our projects are carefully chosen to ensure that there is a long term and sustainable benefit for the community. For example, we provide micro loans to a small farming community in South Africa to buy water pumps to make their land suitable for farming, their loan is paid back through the sale of their crops and then they are totally self reliant. It’s incredibly rewarding to see this in person, as every year we visit the projects.
As the MD of the Lemonaid in the UK, what is the most important idea that you base your work around and encourage the team to keep in mind?
We are in an incredibly fortunate position that people understand what we are doing and want to be a part of it. We have a fantastic, Shoreditch based team that are driven by our mission to affect long term change and do business differently. I always try to keep in mind that we are striving for something much bigger than ourselves. For me, it's all about the collective impact we can have and the change we can create. It's great to see other businesses taking up a similar structure and realising that it is possible to be profitable while supporting others.
And how do you work to ‘do things properly’?
We take the notion of being socially responsible seriously and while we know where our ingredients come from and regularly visit the producers, for us, this is not where our desire to do business properly ends. We are really careful to ensure that everything we do, from our ingredients, to packaging, to our banking reflects our ethics. For example, our wooden marketing material is made by people with physical disabilities and its great for us to be able to support the work they are doing. Doing things properly isn't always easy and can often be more expensive and time consuming, but it's a commitment we made and we are determined to stick to it.
We couldn’t agree more - what does a regular day in the UK Lemonaid offices look like?
Ha! This is tricky - as a start up, no two days are ever the same. It's a fast paced industry and as a small team (there are just four of us in the UK) we have to be really flexible. We work from The Trampery, a co- working space in Old Street and it's a really vibrant place to be. My day usually starts near the office with a supplier meeting. I might then squeeze in some visits to existing stockists to see how things are going - paying a visit to Good & Proper Tea once in a while, then perhaps a team catch up on Skype with the other countries (this can sound a bit like the results call at Eurovision) and I always try to end my day in the office, to catch up with emails and the team and make sure everything is running smoothly.
What were you doing before Lemonaid?
I met Paul, the Founder of Lemonaid while studying for my masters in Germany at university in 2010. Paul was giving a seminar about social enterprise and the importance of businesses being the drivers of change in developing countries. I was so impressed with what he was doing, I hung around after and we chatted for a while. I started working for the company as a summer intern and have worked my way up ever since.
And how would you like to see the Lemonaid and Charitea Foundation to develop over the next five years?
In terms of the Foundation, we are aiming to have raised over £10 million within the next 5 years. This would enable us to reach and support even more communities. I would love the Lemonaid and ChariTea Foundation to be an inspiration to others. For huge change to happen, we need other businesses to adopt a similar model.
Finally, what’s your drink of choice?
There’s a cocktail that we make with our sparkling Mate iced tea, called a ‘Fireball Mate’. It's made with a cinnamon flavoured whisky mixed with our sparkling Mate. Yerba Mate is an Argentine leaf tea that is naturally bursting with caffeine, so it's a great natural energy drink. You’re interviewing me at 11am though, so right now, I’ll just have the Mate and I'll save the whisky for later.
You can find Lemonaid in independent stockists around the UK and to learn more about how you can support the Foundation, visit their website here.